Thousands took to the streets across France on Saturday to demand the government abandon a contentious new security law, in a controversy intensified by the beating and racial abuse of a black man by police officers that shocked the country.
The demonstrations against the security law — which would restrict the right of the press to broadcast images of police officers’ faces — took place nationwide with the central Place de la Republique in Paris packed despite the coronavirus pandemic.
President Emmanuel Macron said late Friday that the images of the beating of black music producer Michel Zecler in Paris last weekend “shame us”. The incident had magnified concerns about alleged systemic racism in the police force.
“Police everywhere, justice nowhere” and “police state” and “smile while you are beaten” were among the slogans brandished as protesters marched from Place de la Republique to the nearby Place de la Bastille.
“We have felt for a long time to have been the victim of institutionalised racism from the police,” said Mohamed Magassa 35, who works in a reception centre for minors.
“But now we feel that this week all of France has woken up,” he said.
“The fundamental and basic liberties of our democracy are being attacked — freedom of expression and information,” added Sophie Misiraca, 46, a lawyer.
There were some tensions in Paris as a car was overturned and a barricade set up in one area with black smoke rising into the air from a fire. A few protesters threw stones at the security forces, an AFP correspondent said.